PGA Tour pro Carlos Franco, who has missed the past two U.S. Opens, fired back-to-back 66s in yesterday's 36-hole U.S. Open sectional qualifier at Woodmont Country Club's North Course in Rockville. At 12 under, the Paraguay native captured medalist honors at the 74-player event and won a spot in the 156-player field at Shinnecock Hills in Southampton, N.Y., when the Open begins June 17.
In 2002, Franco missed qualifying by one shot at Woodmont's sectional qualifier; last year at Woodmont, he lost out in a playoff. He was one of five golfers to qualify for the Open at Woodmont, one of 13 sectional sites around the country.
PGA Tour pros Omar Uresti and Joey Sindelar, who won the Wachovia Championship last month and has earned just more than $1.1 million this season, qualified with a 36-hole total of 9-under 135; Bubba Watson, a 25-year-old player on the Nationwide Tour making just his second attempt at the Open, also qualified at 9 under; and PGA Tour pro Pat Perez of Scottsdale, Ariz., earned a spot in Open with a 7-under 137.
Franco got a bit of a surprise after his morning round.
"When I came here to try and qualify, I thought maybe [there would be] eight spots," he said. "After I shot 66, I figure I have to shoot about 1 under or even [par] to make it. Then I go to eat lunch and I find out they are qualifying only for five spots."
Watson, a professional golfer for only 21/2 years who has to play his way into the Nationwide Tour events on the Monday before tournaments, was thrilled to make the field.
"I came here and thought, 'Maybe this is my time,' " said Watson, who shot a 67 in the morning, followed by a 68. "It's a dream come true. No matter what happens, no matter if I win or shoot in the 80s, I'm going to play in the U.S. Open."
The top local finisher was David Hutsell of Baltimore, who finished 2 under.
-- Dave Yanovitz